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Lance Probe Goes Criminal?

Armstrong is now being investigated for obstruction, witness tampering

Lance Armstrong may have survived one federal doping investigation and even the Oprah interviews—albeit without his dignity and clean public image intact—but he's not in the clear yet.

Yesterday, a high-level source told ABC News that the disgraced former Tour de France champion is under active federal investigation—this time for crimes including obstruction of justice, witness tampering and intimidation, all in relation to his previous criminal investigation, which ended abrupty last year.

U.S. Attorney for Southern California Andre Birotte investigated Armstrong for two years—gathering evidence of crimes that reportedly included drug distribution, fraud and conspiracy—before suddenly, and without explanation, dropping the case on Feb. 3, 2012. At the time, baffled sources said that agents had recommended an indictment in the case, and had no idea why it was abandoned.

The news of the current investigation came, coincidentally, on the same day that Birotte broke his yearlong silence regarding Armstrong. During an unrelated Dept. of Justice news conference, a member of the media asked whether the recent Oprah interviews—during which Armstrong admitted to some of the crimes Birotte was investigating him for—changed his outlook on the case.

"We made a decision on that case, I believe, a little over a year ago," Birotte said. "Obviously, we've been well aware of the statements that have been made by Mr. Armstrong and other media reports. That has not changed my view at this time. Obviously, we'll consider, we'll continue to look at the situation, but that hasn't changed our view as I stand here today."

But ABC's source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Birotte was unaware of the new criminal investigation, which is being run out of another office. Also, he added, the Feds are no longer concerned with his use of performance-enhancing drugs, but rather his alleged interference with witnesses in that case.

What's all this mean for Lance? Well, if this one is brought to trial, probably many more uncomfortable, public "interviews"; further evidence that Armstrong is, as he asserted in his Oprah sessions, a "bully"; and, depending on how it all shakes out, big fines and possibly jail time for the former star. Yikes!

Also in Lance Armstrong news, today marks his last chance to tell all under oath. If he doesn't, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency says he'll lose any chance of lessening his lifetime ban from sport.

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